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Super Rugby preview: Melbourne Rebels v Crusaders
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Melbourne Rebels will look to rediscover winning form on Friday when the Crusaders visit AAMI Park in round five of the Super Rugby season.
Damien Hill's side endured a 32-7 defeat at the hands of compatriots Western Force last weekend, after winning their season curtain-raiser against the Cheetahs.
The Crusaders, who have not missed the knockout stages since 2001, have made a patchy start to their 2014 campaign, losing to defending champions Chiefs and the Blues before edging their way to a 14-13 victory over the Stormers last weekend.
There have only been two Super Rugby meetings between the sides and the most recent, in 2012, saw the Rebels record a historic victory made a spirited comeback and kept the Crusaders scoreless in the second period to claim victory.
The Rebels are not ready to allow room for complacency however, as former Wallabies half-back Andy Ellis insists they hold the Crusaders in high regard.
"We've talked this week about having a lot of respect for them," he said. "We really consider them one of the teams to beat.
"When you look at their stats right across their game, and especially in attack they're lethal."
Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder has made one change to his starting XV and a number of positional switches ahead of their trip to Melbourne.
Ben Funnell starts at hooker this week instead of Corey Flynn, who is unavailable after suffering a fractured eye socket in last weekend's match, with Codie Taylor coming onto the bench as cover.
Nafi Tuitavake is the only player in the starting 15 who was not involved last week after recovering from a hamstring strain to take the right wing and Johnny McNicholl will take the left wing.
Andy Ellis takes the starting half-back spot again and, with Willi Heinz recovering from a calf injury, Mitchell Drummond has an opportunity to make his Crusaders debut if he comes off the bench.
Colin Slade move to first five for this game, which sees Tom Taylor shift out to second five and Ryan Crotty move into centre and Israel Dagg gets the No 15 jersey.
Rebels: 15 Woodward, 14 Mitchell, 13 Ellison, 12 Inman, 11 English, 10 Hegarty, 9 Burgess, 1 Smith, 2 Leafa, 3 Weeks, 4 Pyle, 5 Jones, 6 McMahon, 7 Fuglistaller, 8 Higginbotham (capt)
Replacements: 16 Horie, 17 Lahiff, 18 Alo-Emile, 19 Neville, 20 Fainga'a, 21 Meehan, 22 Roberts, 23 Veainu
Crusaders: 15 Dagg, 14 Tuitavake, 13 Crotty, 12 T Taylor, 11 McNicholl, 10 Slade, 9 Ellis, 1 Crockett, 2 Funnell, 3 Franks, 4 Romano, 5 S Whiteock, 6 L Whitelock, 7 Todd, 8 Read (capt)
Replacements: 16 C Taylor, 17 Perry, 18 Laulala, 19 Bird, 20 Taufua, 21 Drummond, 22 Fonotia, 23 Nadolo
You can see all the action from Melbourne as the Rebels take on the Crusaders live on Sky Sports 4 from 08:40am on Friday.
|Click here for more betting|
|Saturday 2nd August|
|Waratahs 33 - 32 Crusaders|
|Saturday 26th July|
|Waratahs 26 - 8 Brumbies|
|Crusaders 38 - 6 Sharks|
|Saturday 19th July|
|Sharks 31 - 27 Highlanders|
|Brumbies 32 - 30 Chiefs|
|Saturday 12th July|
|Stormers 10 - 34 Sharks|
|Lions 60 - 25 Cheetahs|
|Reds 3 - 34 Waratahs|
|Crusaders 34 - 8 Highlanders|
|Friday 11th July|
|Bulls 40 - 7 Melbourne Rebels|
|Brumbies 47 - 25 Western Force|
|Blues 8 - 11 Chiefs|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com